Australian Identity & Culture

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culture [n.]

1. the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. 2. the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. 3. Biology, the cultivation of bacteria, tissue cells, etc. in an artificial medium containing nutrients. 4. the cultivation of plants.
- ORIGIN Middle English [denoting a cultivated piece of land] : the noun from French culture or directly from Latin cultura ‘growing, cultivation’; the verb from obsolete French culturer or medieval Latin culturare, both based on Latin colere ‘tend, cultivate’ [see Cultivate]. In late Middle English the sense was ‘cultivation of the soil’ and from this [early 16th century], arose ‘cultivation [of the mind, faculties, or manners’]; CULTURE [Sense 1 of the noun] dates from the early 19th century
Oxford Dictionaries

Australia has many things in common with the rest of the world, though there are several parts of our national identity and culture which are peculiar to us. These are detailed in the sections below. They include emphasis on physical as opposed to mental achievement, the concept of mateship, Australian idiom, language and humour. The embracing of the concept of multiculturalism is also included. Be aware culture and national identity are always changing.

This page covers topics M to Z including areas such as Mateship, Myths & Stereotypes, Multiculturalism, Social & Cultural Features and Sport.

The First Page covers topics A to L including areas such as Art & Culture, Australian Identity, Humour, Educational Activities, Australian Values, Language, … .

Journals, databases, primary documents, reference material and other information are included where these are relevant.

M - R


From the earliest European settlement, this was seen as a defining characteristic of Australian culture.

  • A Sketch of Mateship
    A sketch demonstrative of the concept of mateship, Henry Lawson. Scroll down to this.
  • Gallipoli, Mateship, …
    “And the Construction of Australian National Identity”. Links on the role and depiction of mateship, especially in film.
  • Is Mateship a Virtue ?
    Essay by James S Page that takes a critical look at what mateship is and effects this might have - are these virtues ? PDF file.
  • Mateship
    Listing of quotes and statements relating to mateship from Prime Ministers, writers, everyday people. Interesting.
  • Mateship [2]
    Origins, military context, use in other situations, references, links, more. Wikipedia.
  • Mateship - A Very Australian History
    Review of a book of the same title which was recently published.

Media Presentations

Includes media presentations with several from the ABC.

  • Australia’s Place in the World
    ‘Today in Australia’s Place In The World we look at the forces that have shaped foreign policy-making since the Second World War’.
  • Remaking Australia, Part 4 : Miriam Lyons
    ‘A look at remaking Australian culture, for want of a smaller topic’. One of a series of responses after the Federal election of 2007. Crikey.
  • Suburbia
    ‘While Australians like to think that the bush is at the heart of the country, roughly 80 per cent of Australians live in the suburbs’
    Part of a series from Radio National, available as a broadcast or in transcript format.
  • Tales of Two Hemispheres
    2004 Boyer Lectures. In audio and transcript formats. ‘Peter Conrad and his side of the story of being an expatriate Australian writer and intellectual, returning to his birthplace to rediscover and appreciate anew the qualities that make Australia unique and now an object of desire in this increasingly globalised world’. 6 broadcasts.
  • The Australian People
    ‘When Australia commemorated diverse in the world’.
    Part of a series from Radio National, available as a broadcast or in transcript format.
  • The Local and the Global in Australian Culture
    ‘There are often two conflicting points of view about Australian culture : one that such a young country can hardly be seen to have a national culture at all, and another more positive view that Australia’s no longer a British outpost nor is it a branch office of the United States and it can build something new and different, “Down Under” !’
    Part of a series from Radio National, available as a broadcast or in transcript format.

Myths, Beliefs & Stereotypes

Information about beliefs integral to Australian culture. Check the Mateship section above.

  • Australian Dream
    ‘The Australian Dream or Great Australian Dream is a belief that in Australia, home ownership can lead to a better life and is an expression of success and security’.History, cultural presentations, references, links. Wikipedia.
  • Australian Folklore
    A bibliography compiled by Curtin University.
  • Australian Myths - Fact or Fable ?
    ‘Australian myths have very little to do with realising one’s ambition. Instead, myths based around mateship, egalitarianism and a belief in a fair go aim to achieve a peaceful society where people don’t feel either superior or inferior and where the underdogs are supported’.
  • Australian Stereotypes
    ‘Not only do stereotypes provide the behavioural model that individuals seek to emulate, they also provide a sense of commonality that makes people feel that they are part of a community’.
  • Egalitarianism
    Presentation with emphasis on mateship, egalitarianism, a fair go. Looks at responses to these concepts.
  • Australian Stereotypes
    Article. Looks at stereotypes and people’s opposing views of them.
  • Class in Australia
    Quotes about class in Australia. Several points of view provided.
  • Oral History and Folklore
    National Library of Australia. ‘The Oral History and Folklore Collection dates back to the 1950s and includes a rich and diverse collection of interviews and recordings with Australians from all walks of life’.

Tall Poppies


General information, award information, illustrators, link listings, more.

  • A History of the Department of Immigration
    “Managing Migration to Australia. This publication is a brief history of the Department of Immigration and captures some of the key events, highlights and challenges relating to immigration to Australia”. Includes multicultural processes.
  • A Timeline History of Multicultural Australia
    Commentaries, speeches, documents, archival material, articles, reports, more. Multiple sections from before Australia became a nation to The Present Generation.
  • Australian Multiculturalism : the roots of its success
    ‘The paper starts with an examination of Australia’s history from early settlement and then the focus shifts to the unique Australian culture that has emerged today, combining the elements of past and present’. Linked to a 2012 conference on this topic. Online or as a Word download.
    You now need to be able to log in to access this site.
  • Fact Sheet - Australia’s Multicultural Policy
    Department of Social Services. Includes a Brief History and a ‘Parliamentary statement on racial tolerance’.
  • Immigration and Nation Building in Australia : Looking Back, Looking Forward
    Transcript of a speech given in 2015. Provides an overview of migration, attitudes and more from the earliest days, but especially from 1945 on.
  • Immigration Nation
    ‘Explore the stories and lives of dozens of remarkable immigrants - and their descendants - in this immersive interactive documentary about the building of multicultural Australia’. SBS.
  • Making Multicultural Australia
    Assisting young people, parents, teachers and the community to explore Australia’s cultural diversity, tolerance and anti-racism. Research Library [3 000+ pages], audio, video, hotwords, activities & quizzes, history topics, lesson ideas, e-learning topics, documents. Their What’s new page keeps you constantly up-to-date.
    Exceptional !
  • Multicultural Australia
    ‘Find information on Australia’s cultural diversity, including key dates and activities’.
  • Multiculturalism : a review of …
    Australian policy statements and recent debates in Australia and overseas. ‘This paper provides an overview of Australia’s federal multicultural policies, briefly draws attention to state and territory multicultural policy frameworks, and reviews some key issues in recent public debates about multiculturalism in Australia and overseas, with a focus on post-immigration multiculturalism’. Parliamentary Library.
  • The Development of Australia’s Multicultural Policies
    “How much do you know ?” Online quiz. Access other quizzes from this page.
  • The Success of Australia’s Multiculturalism
    An interesting speech given by the Race Discrimination Commissioner to the Sydney Institute in 2016.
  • The White Australia Policy
    Covers this and the changes which occurred leading up to a multicultural approach. Links to other documents. RacismNoWay.

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S - Z

Social and Cultural Features

These links have been compiled by an online education group and cover the post-war decades. Access may be limited on any visit without a Fee-based registration at the site [cost is quite reasonable]. Registration includes access to audio summaries, images and examinations on the topic.


Sport and its influence has always played a significant role in Australian culture.

  • A Nation of “Good Sports” ?
    Cultural Citizenship and Sport in Contemporary Australia. A short article by David Rowe ‘exploring if it still can be assumed that sport plays a unifying role in this country’.
  • Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi : why do we love sport so much ?
    ‘Australians have a remarkable affection for their sport, an affection which has endured for well over 150 years’.
  • National Sports Museum
    Information on exhibitions, collections, excursions, links to other sources, resources, more.
  • Nick Bryant’s Australia
    Part of a blog from the BBC News in which the reporter looks at Melbourne’s Sport Prowess and how it reflects on Australian love of sport [and competition with Sydney !].
  • Sport
    ‘What it reveals about the values of Australian society are explored in the Sport : A National Obsession ? display in the Nation gallery’. National Museum of Australia.
    You now need to be able to log in to access this site.
  • Sport and Popular Culture
    Part of a larger Contemporary Australia presentation. Transcript of a specific episode.
  • Sport in Australia
    History, organisation, participation, amateurs, spectatorship, media, international competitions, references, bibliography, links. Wikipedia.
  • Sporting Greats
    ‘Australia reveres and treasures its sporting heroes. Sporting greats have inspired and united Australians, who have shared, celebrated and rewarded their successes’. Now archived.
  • Sport : Touchstone of Australian Life
    Martin Flanagan. From the Alfred Deakin Lectures.
  • This Sporting Life
    One person’s response to those who see sport as the most important factor, when he doesn’t. Article in The Age.

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